The University of Denver Pioneers plan on joining the WAC in 2012-13, but should they reconsider their commitment to a conference who looks to be crumbling?
When the DU Pioneers accepted an invitation to join the WAC, the conference also extended invitations to the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners and Texas State Bobcats. These teams were to join Utah State Aggies, New Mexico St. Aggies, Hawaii Warriors, Idaho Vandals, San Jose St. Spartans and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to form a 9-team conference, all of which would sport football teams except for DU.
At the time, the WAC also extended an offer to the Montana Grizzlies, a perennial FCS juggernaut. When the Grizzlies opted to stay at the Division 1-AA level instead of moving up to the more prestigious and lucrative FBS division, DU and the rest of the WAC should have seen the writing on the wall.
Since then the latest reports indicate that the North Texas Mean Green have declined an invitation to join the WAC, instead staying put in the Sun Belt, DU's current conference, in hopes of receiving an invitation from the C-USA.
This comes on the heels of reports that the Hawaii Warriors are shunning the conference to play football in the MWC, while taking its other sports to the Big West.
If Hawaii does move conferences, the WAC is left with no marquee names in any of the money-generating sports. The conference had visions of securing an automatic BCS bid when all of the expansion discussion began, but now is looking like the biggest loser in this crazy year.
It has been communicated by DU officials that a move to the WAC would save the school an untold amount of money on travel expenses, compared to what it costs to travel to other Sun Belt conference schools, but maybe DU should re-evaluate the situation and look at the long term viability of the conference.
The WAC has already lost its top three football programs, in Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, in their move to the MWC. With Hawaii following, the conference won't have a football school it can rely on to keep the conference relevant. In the past few years, those four schools have kept the WAC in the football conversation, but with their departures, the conference is even more of an after thought, and a joke, than it is now.
So what's the WAC's solution? Looking at inviting another non-football playing, lower-tiered basketball school in the University of Seattle Redhawks. This simply is not an answer.
If you are a conference trying to make it in this money-driven world, having North Texas and Montana reject you should tell you something. Having your only marquee programs leave should tell you something. Having to resort to inviting schools for the sake of having qualifying numbers should tell you something.
All this should also tell the Pioneer administration that this conference is on a downswing, and the Pioneers could find themselves trying to find a new conference in the very near future.